Any rumours that the New Zealander of the Year Awards have gone to the dogs are completely unfounded. But they may very well be going to the cats.
Not just any cat, though. We’re talking Mittens, the celebrity cat from the city of Wellington.
Already has the key to the city
Mittens, a 10-year-old male Turkish Angora breed, has already been honoured with the key to the city of Wellington and boasts his own Facebook page with a following of more than 50 000 people.
Now he may be in line for his biggest honour yet: 2021 New Zealander of the Year.
If Mittens wins, he will have beaten a range of other big-name nominees. These include Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, microbiologist and COVID-19 health communicator Dr Siouxsie Wiles, and Greens MP Chlöe Swarbrick.
He brings happiness and laughter
Mittens received the key to Wellington “in recognition of bringing happiness, laughter and coolness to the capital – and putting the city on the map internationally with his feline antics.” Winning the national award would presumably do much the same for the entire nation.
He first came to local fame in 2018 when, despite not being homeless, he began visiting all manner of homes, businesses and public organisations in inner-city Wellington. The local post office, Catholic church and university were all recipients of visits.
Many concerned people, thinking Mittens was lost, would take him to the SPCA or to the police.
Facebook page to show he’s not lost
“After repeated encounters with Mittens, an SPCA employee started a Facebook page to reassure locals that the cat wasn’t lost and didn’t need to be ‘rescued – he was just adventurous,” the Guardian Australia newspaper reported.
Apart from his own Facebook page that tracks his adventures, Mittens also regularly features on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Even the local museum in the city has a mini-exhibition dedicated to Mittens and his wanderings.
A press release from the organisers says nominations for the New Zealander of the Year close on August 30. Thereafter, judging panels will evaluate their merits over at least two rounds and the semi-finalists will be announced in December.
Overall winners will be named on 18 March, 2021.
Mittens is chilled about the whole thing. He says if he doesn’t win it won’t be a cat-astrophe.